Luxury camping in Hainault Forest

A super-handy Essex escape for nature-hungry Londoners, with shady trails through ancient woodlands and spring bursts of bluebells.

99% (218 reviews)
99% (218 reviews)

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Luxury camping in Hainault Forest guide

Overview

Once part of the Forest of Essex, this age-old 280-acre expanse sprawling northeast from London has been protected since back in the 12th century. Dive into its horse-riding, cycling and walking routes, keeping an eye out for some of the 130 bird species among the trickling streams, whispering oak trees and wide-open heathland. A ‘monster trail’ keeps kids busy, and the whole area is dog-friendly. Autumn is a delightful season to explore Hainault Forest, with foliage slipping into rust-red clothes, while spring is perfect for vibrant blooms. You’ll want to book nearby campsites well ahead, especially in July and August when things get busy.

Where to go

Lee Valley Country Park

Beyond Hainault Forest itself, campers can explore the nearby Lee Valley, which stretches along the River Lea northeast from London into Buckinghamshire and Essex. Some of it was transformed into London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 games, bringing a welcome green lung to the capital’s east. Its handful of campsites take in tent spots, caravan parks, cosy lodges and pre-pitched safari tents, while adventure activities swing from white-water rafting to rowing along the river to leisurely horse riding.

Epping Forest

Another favourite nature spot on London’s fringes, Epping Forest sits just north of Hainault on the Essex-Hertfordshire border. With endless hiking paths, cycling routes, horseback trails and everything from paintball to windsurfing, you’ll be spoilt for entertainment. And while you can’t pitch up in the forest itself, there are wild-camping and caravanning sites on its edges.

Kent Coast

Kent’s beach-strung northern coastline awaits within a two-hour drive of Hainault Forest, offering up lively, bohemian beach towns such as Whitstable and Margate alongside miles of seaside walks, plenty of watersports and tempting ocean-view camping spots.

Suffolk Coast

Trundle less than two hours east from Hainault Forest to reach the pretty villages, Tudor mansions and pastel-painted resorts dotted around Suffolk’s sleepy littoral, not to mention the unmissable Algo-Saxon burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. Rewarding hikes lead along the 96-km Suffolk Coast Path, with tempting stops including Aldeburgh. There’s also fabulous coastal cycling, along with sunset horse rides along the golden beaches.

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